A clutch of the most venerable vintages—cars, that is—race through Napa Valley in style. Gentlemen need not apply.
Every woman should know how to drive a stick shift—especially if you expect to join these 60 ladies as they zoom through the back roads of Napa Valley and the Northern California coast. My mom, Kacey Doheny McCoy, and I co-piloted my dad’s ’57 Mercedes 300SL Roadster on the third annual “It’s All About the Girls!” rally. It was an artfully curated selection of the best regional roads to drive, punctuated by exquisite farm-to-table feasts. Our international entourage of 28 teams of friends, mothers, daughters, grandmothers and granddaughters covered nearly 100 miles each day of the four-day rally in cars that were delivered by trailer, plane or boat—in some cases all three.
“Something amazing happens when you throw women from all over the globe, of all ages, in vintage cars that have none of the modern comforts, and send them off on a trip together. The group solidarity of experiencing the drive together, in tandem, is awesome,” says Gwen McCaw, who, along with sister-in-law and co-pilot Susan McCaw, and Jacque Conner and Merle Mullin—all wives of serious car collectors—are the co-founders and accomplished hosts of September’s epic journey.
“We all met while on rallies with our husbands,” says Conner. “They tend to take things a bit more seriously, which proved to be stressful for many of us. We talked about how much fun it would be to do a ladies rally—we aimed for a little less driving, a little more socializing, and a lot more laughter. That is exactly what we ended up with.”
The kickoff dinner was poolside under the twinkly light-filled olive trees of the Solage Calistoga, our home base for the rally. The second night, decked out in denim and diamonds, we two-stepped to The Bootleg Honeys—a local, all-girl, guitar-slinging country trio—while cowboys did a “live fire” cookout at the Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch in St. Helena.
“Dress in the Era of Your Car” was the theme for the riotous third night at our sleepover at the Heritage House in Mendocino. Our finale dinner at The Napa Valley Reserve was a gala send-off with a silent auction to help raise more money for the two regional charities selected by our hosts: Global Fund for Women and Family House San Francisco. One of the night’s waiters turned out to be Susan McCaw’s husband, Craig, in total disguise. “He’d heard how much fun I had in past ladies rallies, so he went to extreme measures to see what made them so special,” Susan says.
Our cozy, Zen-like cottages at Solage were filled with gifts from our sponsors, among them Vhernier, Michael Kors, Salvatore Ferragamo, Bentley and Bugatti, as well as note cards with quotes that alluded to the next day’s route. The night before our spin around Sonoma Raceway, a card quoted former world champion driver Mario Andretti, inscribed with the words, “If everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough.”
Occasionally the driving was a challenge, but well rewarded upon completion. A welcome Pimm’s cup and a round of croquet awaited us at Meadowood resort in St. Helena after the harrowing hairpins of Trinity Road took us from Sonoma to Oakville. Heads turned as we pulled into small towns, cylinders roaring. Parked, we were a mini-Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, from the iconic Mercedes 300SL Gullwing and roadsters (there were four) to the ’50s and ’60s Porsches, Jaguars, Lancias, Alfa Romeos and, oh, yes, the Ferraris—of which there were six.
“Is that a Ferrari 250 California Spyder?” one gentleman asked. “There are only about 50 of those in the world. And today, in Boonville, there are four.” He walked off shaking his head in amazement as we jumped back into our cars and headed through the Alexander Valley toward the giant redwoods.
Photography by CLAUDINE GOSSETT.
Written by SHANE McCOY FERMELIA.
Produced by GWEN McCAW.